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The media, post amnesty and the 1999 constitution (2)

By Akpo Mudiaga Odje

After amnesty comes employment, rehabilitation and redress.  We challenge government to declare its proposals for employment, feeding, welfare, housing and education of the people granted amnesty.

If the Federal Government is sincere, it should release all funds accruing to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC,  increase the paltry N47 billion budget to the Ministry of Niger Delta as well as prevail on all States of the Niger Delta to set up their respective State Oil Commissions with a minimum of 50% of the 13% derivation as its funding; and all such funds accruing to it be paid directly from source to the Commissions by the Accountant-General of the Federation.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), all Federal Government oil_related agencies and all multinational oil Companies should relocate their headquarters to their areas of operation, preferably in the creeks of the Niger Delta which will inevitably create employment for the youths and development for our people.

We also advocate for an upward review to 25% in the meantime of the principle of derivation; and such calculation shall include the continental shelf, and not just a paltry 200 metres depth isobath as obtains today.

With utmost dispatch, the Federal Government should cause to be repealed the following unjust, oppressive and retrogressive expropriatory laws which have apparently divested the people of their ownership rights to control their God-given resources.  Such laws include but are not limited to the following, to wit:- o    Territorial Waters Act, Cap. T4 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

*Exclusive Economic Zone Act, Cap. E17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; Land Use Act, Cap. L5 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;  Interpretation Act, Cap. 123 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;  Oil Pipelines Act, Cap. 07 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;  Petroleum Act, Cap. P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;  Minerals and Mining Act, Cap. M12 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004;  National Inland Waterways Authority Act, Cap. N47 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004; Section 44 (3) of the 1999 Constitution;  Item 39 on the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution.

If this and more, including the implementation of the Ledum Mittee Report are religiously implemented, the youth restiveness and tension in the region which had necessitated the President’s grant of general amnesty will never arise.  Our youths want to share and partake from the benefits accruing from the exploration and exploitation of their oil and gas resources.  That is the issue, Mr. President.  And no amount of amnesty can suppress the legitimate aspirations of our people.

In the meantime we strongly urge the Federal Government to urgently embark on comprehensive reparation for the sacked Ijaw Communities as well as rehabilitation of all displaced persons arising therefrom.  At this point, it should be emphasized that the destruction of the Gbaramatu people’s cultural heritage was a violation of international law specifically the 1954 Hague Cultural Property Convention, which prevents the destruction of cultural property in times of war or military occupation.  (See Documents on the Laws Of War 2008 by Adam Roberts and Richard Guelff at page 372).

The Federal Government Should Enter into Treaty with the Freedom Fighters.

Way forward for Mr. President and the people of the Niger Delta. By its nature, the word ‘amnesty’ is welcome, for all it is worth notwithstanding its legal efficiency.  We however believe that if Mr. President is truly and genuinely serious in quelling the struggle for self-determination by these freedom fighters, the Nigerian State through Mr. President should enter into a treaty of peace with our freedom fighters in their individual and/or collective capacities, and thereafter have same approved by the national assembly, thus binding the parties therein.

This kind of Treaty and/or Agreement between the contending parties will be a reference point for posterity and the nation as to its terms and conditions.  So, any party that breaches it will be known clearly in the eyes of the polity and of course, the law. Consequently, a general and/or blanket statement of amnesty without any legal backing as well as Federal Government’s commitment towards empowering the youths and rebuilding desolate infrastructure in
the Niger Delta, will do nothing but certainly escalate the tension.

In that treaty some and more of the following should be included as follows:

1. Full implementation of the Niger Delta Technical Committee Report. 2. Ensuring that every State of the Niger Delta sets up a State Oil Commission with a minimum of 50% of its 13% derivation as funding, which said funds should be paid directly from source, i.e. from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation straight to the Commissions.  The youths want a piece of the action at the grass root level, too.3.

The Federal Government should divest 20% of its 60% equity share in the Joint Venture Partnerships with the oil producing Companies to the host oil producing Communities of the Niger Delta. However, we commend our President for conceding 10% but we hasten to add that he should approach the National Assembly to get legal backing for his policy.

4. Comprehensive training and retraining of every youth in both skilled and unskilled labour.

5. Employing the youths as coastal guards for securing the oil pipelines in the oil producing creeks and riverine areas.

6. Guarantee free education to the youths of the region from primary up to University level.

7. Relocation of the headquarters of all Federal Government oil related agencies including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC,  and Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF,  to their areas of operation in the creeks and riverine communities. 8.Direct the immediate relocation of headquarters of all Oil Companies to their     respective areas of operation in the hinterland of the Niger Delta.

9. Causing immediate infrastructural development in the oil producing communities, such as building of industries, bridges to enhance commercial activities with a view of creating employment and development.

10.Proper funding of the NDDC and the Ministry of Niger Delta.

11. Inclusion of specific provision in the controversial 495 Sectioned Petroleum Industry Bill, that will provide royalty to be paid to the Oil Communities as well as a local     content policy that will guarantee employment of the youths by the multi national Oil Companies operating in their areas.

This point is very important as Shell Development Petroleum Corporation, SPDC, has disclosed to us that in three years,     (2005_2008) it paid N5 trillion as royalties to the Federal Government.  The report is in the Daily Independent of 13/8/2009 at Page P_4 under the title: “Shell claims     payment of N5 trillion Royalties in three years”.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.